DUBAI: Former champion and long-time Dubai entrant Kateryna Bondarenko led a procession of the top five seeded players into the main draw of the 24th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge being played at the Habtoor Grand Resort and Spa, on Monday.
The 35-year-old Ukrainian triumphed 7-5, 4-6, 14-12 against Great Britain’s Eden Silva to become one of the eight players to qualify for the main draw.
Hailing from a tennis-playing family that includes sisters Valeria and Alona, Bondarenko has been a regular at the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge while winning the singles in 2006. The same year, she was on to her way to a doubles crown while partnering her sister Alona, but they ended runners-up to Jelena Kostanic Tosic and Mervana Jugic-Salkic.
“It’s lovely to be back in Dubai where I have so many memories from the past. And now to qualify to the main draw means I have the additional bonus of continuing my return from injury while also preparing for the challenges ahead,” Bondarenko said after her win against a gutsy British opponent in an hour and 46 minutes.
Three months back, the mother of two underwent a surgery on her left knee, and is now in the process of returning on the tour. “Not playing for so many weeks has been tough. But I am simply too happy to be in the main draw now,” third-seeded Bondarenko said.
“There’s going to be nothing special, but just take one match at a time and see how far I can go this week. Not only will this give me confidence, but also help me in my journey ahead. The more matches I have under my belt can only be good for me.”
Top seed Julia Grabher also had a tough time with a 5-7, 6-2, 10-8 win against Zoe Kruger, while fourth seed Oksana Selekhmeteva also advanced with a smooth 6-4, 6-1 win over Peangtarn Plipuech.
Fifth-seeded Isabella Shinikova also went through with a 0-6, 6-4, 12-10 win over Tereza Mihalikova, while seventh seed Naiktha Bains became the lone girl from Great Britain in the competition following her 5-7, 6-3, 10-7 win over Renata Voracova.
Aldila Sutjiadi and Georgiana Ilona Ghioroaie were the last two making it into the main draw with contrasting wins. Sutjiadi beat 3-6, 6-4, 10-3 against Turkey’s Berfu Cengiz, while Ghioroaie defeated Georgiana Raluca Serban 6-3, 6-4.
There was good news for wild card Andreea Mitu of Romania as she upset second seed Anastasia Zakharova 2-6, 6-3, 10-6 and became the last player to book her place in the main draw.
Sponsored by Mai Dubai, Hilton, V Hotel, Habtoor Palace, Emirates International School, Habtoor Grand Resort and Diamond Lease, the competition will conclude with the singles final on November 27 (Saturday).
Qualifying round results
Julia Grabher bt Zoe Kruger 5-7, 6-2, 10-8
Kateryna Bondarenko bt Eden Silva 7-5, 4-6, 14-12
Oksana Selekhmeteva bt Peangtarn Plipuech 6-4, 6-1
Isabella Shinikova bt Tereza Mihalikova 0-6, 6-4, 12-10
Georgiana Raluca Serban bt Georgiana Ilona Ghioroaie 6-3, 6-4
Naikhta Bains bt Renata Voracova 5-7, 6-3, 10-7
Aldila Sutjiadi bt Berfu Cengiz 3-6, 6-4, 10-3
Andreea Mitu bt Anastasia Zakharova 2-6, 6-3, 10-6